Hammersmith Reflections – People who aren’t like us

I was sitting in the sunshine on a bench in Ravenscourt Park having a coffee when I noticed people waving from another bench on the far side of the Tea House. It was Diane, who lives locally near Hammersmith Grove, and a couple of other people.

Diane comes over. We haven’t seen each other for a while. She’s pleased to see me and shrieks in delight.  I am delighted to bump in to her too. Diane smiles. You should see that smile; it speaks volumes. She puts her head on my shoulder and we reconnect and catch up. It’s one of those friendships that transcends time, so we always pick up where we left off.

I almost forgot to tell you (but does it really need saying?) that Diane doesn’t use words to communicate. She spent her formative years in Leavesden, a Victorian institution for people with the label ‘mental handicap’.

I’ve learned a great deal from Diane about how to communicate better, and from how she has dealt with what life has thrown at her. I am richer for knowing her as a friend.

Serendipitously, I was browsing the BBC website and came across Crossing Divides: The benefits of having friends who aren’t ‘just like us’ By Prof Miles Hewstone University of Oxford – 22 April 2018:

“For most of us, the people we see on a regular basis – our social network – are a defining part of our lives. Friends help us understand our place in the world and research shows that strong friendships are associated with reduced anxiety. But there is a growing body of evidence that suggests people tend to make friends with people who are similar to them.

It may well be that we could all benefit from widening the circles we move in. For example, mixing with a diverse set of people can stimulate creativity and benefits both the individual and society.”

The Charity’s 400th anniversary year is all about enabling connections between different people, different communities, and different generations.  From Enigma lunches, and the Ethnic Communities Oral History publications, to the intergenerational project, the Disability Arts Festival, Dancing for Joy, Open Gardens, our very own Gardener’s Question Time, and our new campaign with Dr Edwards & Bishop King’s Fulham Charity, called UNITED in H&F.

Our hope is that these joyful opportunities will provide unexpected and chance encounters for you to meet new friends and neighbours who may not be just like you.

Tim Hughes
Chief Executive & Clerk to the Trustees
Hammersmith United Charities

May 2018

 

 

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